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Obama Affirms Support for Action on Climate Change

Just one week since he secured a second term in the White House, President Obama signaled that addressing global climate change will be a priority in the coming four years, including promoting a national "education process" on the issue. Responding to a reporter’s question during his first press conference since March, Obama said that Hurricane Sandy fit a pattern of an “extraordinarily large number of severe weather events” in the U.S. and abroad.

“We can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing, faster than was predicted even 10 years ago,” Obama said.

President Obama at Wednesday's press conference, his first since March.

Obama is scheduled to tour storm damage in New York City on Thursday. In the wake of the storm, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed the President specifically because of his support for policies to tackle climate change.

Obama has rarely addressed climate science in public appearances, choosing to frame the climate issue as one of clean energy investment. The House passed comprehensive climate change legislation in 2009, but it never passed the Senate, and the White House did not make it a major priority at the time.

But at Wednesday's press conference, and fresh off a resounding re-election, Obama indicated that he wants to move forward with a process to engage elected officials in discussions about addressing climate change, and promoting a national “education process” on this issue, calling such steps necessary to determine "what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with."

Obama reaffirmed his view that manmade emissions of greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming, and stated his intent to continue to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions,” he said, noting that, “we have an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

Obama listed his accomplishments in his first term, chief among them instituting stringent new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. However, he did not mention greenhouse gas regulations issued by the U.S. EPA, which would limit emissions from certain power plants. “We haven’t done as much as we need to,” Obama said.

The President was quick to note that obstacles remain and he said that it’s unclear where Democrats and Republicans stand on a more comprehensive plan.

Obama made it clear that any comprehensive climate change policy solution would need to fit into his agenda for job growth.

"I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that," Obama said. "I won’t go for that."

"If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support."

In recent weeks there have been rumors that lawmakers from both parties may be open to a carbon tax as part of a solution to the looming “fiscal cliff,” but Obama did not endorse that approach.

Related Content: 
2012 May Rank as Second-Most Disastrous Year Since 1980  
How Global Warming Made Hurricane Sandy Worse 
Ongoing Coverage of Hurricane Sandy 
Special Climate Central Report on Best Cars for Climate


By Lewis Cleverdon (Central Wales)
on November 14th, 2012

Andrew - I found a full transcript of the two answers he gave on climate, and after four years of his near-silence and talking down the issue, I got a rather different impression than you did. 

“As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. “
- First falsehood. - The truth is that we can’t attribute any particular weather event SOLELY to climate change. BIG difference.

“I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions, and as a consequence I think we have an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”
- First hype-the-controversy. - Climate science has nothing to do with being a ‘believer’ - either he acknowledges the science, or he rejects it. And climate change is not “impacted by” our emissions, it is being driven by them. Nor is the obligation simply to future generations - the impacts have just cost 113 American lives. Nor is noting the need “to do something about it” anywhere near the honest response of making a clear commitment to resolve it.

“Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. “
- Second falsehood. - The lame change in Cafe standards (that will not even catch up to EU standards) will not take even one millionth of one tonne (one gram) of carbon out of the atmosphere.

“We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. “
- Third falsehood.- Each and every tonne of fossil fuels locally displaced by renewables is being bought and burnt elsewhere - and this will continue until a global climate treaty (which he claims is unnecessary) is agreed to put a binding cap on all nations’ emissions.

“I don’t know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point.”
-First talking down the issue - implying it’s of such low priority he hasn’t even had staff tracking just where people stand on it so he doesn’t know . . .

“If the message somehow is that we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anyone’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that.”
- Second hype-the-controversy - quoting the deniers’ strawman of action on climate damaging the economy.

“You can expect that you’ll hear more from me over the coming months and years that garners bipartisan support that moves this agenda forward.”
- Second talking down the issue - declaring that he won’t move before achieving bipartisan support and that that will take years just to “move the agenda forward” - i.e. that it has no political priority in his second term.

“Because one of the things that we don’t always factor in are the costs that are involved in these natural disasters.”
- Third hype-the-controversy. - Climate scientists have no doubt told him unequivocally that neither Sandy, nor the Derrecho, nor the exceptional ongoing drought, nor the Colorado firestorm, nor lethal tornado swarms, etc, were in any way ‘Natural Disasters’ for anyone but the deniers.

These are not off-the-cuff remarks - climate has been suppressed as an issue throughout the election, and with Sandy’s impact it was certain to be a focus of the first news conference. He will thus have been in detailed discussion with senior staff of exactly how he would respond and what language he would use.

From his answers it seems very clear that he’ll do nothing remotely near what is needed unless he is forced to do so by public and corporate demand. And he evidently remains dead set on doing anything he can get away with to discourage public demand for action. - He plainly needs to be told that pissing down peoples’ necks while telling them its raining just won’t cut it any more.

So at what point will people stop wasting time in attacking the fossil lobby - who really couldn’t give a damn for their critique - and start focussing pressure where it counts, on the White House ?



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By bobarl (Holland Patent, NYI )
on November 15th, 2012

I truly hope Obama can be successful in getting legislation on cleaner energy passed. The politicians who are perpetually against this are, in my opinion, dangerous people. They may not consider themselves dangerous but merely people who absolutely don’t believe in human activity changing the climate, or they may just be helping out their big money supporters like fossil fuel companies. Or they may be both of the above. I can’t remember how many books and periodicals I’ve read on the causes and dangers of climate change and I can say that I know conclusively why scientists are worried and why they are trying to change the minds of people, especially people in this great country. Most people in other countries are more concerned then people here. We are definitely heading for a climate disaster if we keep the status quo and our children and grand-children will pay for our mistakes.

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By EmmittBrownBTTF1 (Wellington, New Zealand)
on November 15th, 2012

Trouble is they think that because the worst consequence are far way (50-100 years) they tend to think that there is plenty of to take action. What they don’t realise is the consequenses of inaction and the lag of technological and instrustrial run-up time means will be hugely disasterous or catastropic if they don’t “pull the lead” out now.
Like the Tea Party, when it comes to enviromental issues, our conservatives make Mr Potato Head look like Stephen Hawking.

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By cloud minder (Lindenhurst/NY/11757)
on November 18th, 2012

Well, you know what the Club of Rome (the think tank for the U.N.) decided back in the 1970s; the globe needed to be united and after ruminating about it for a bit they decided that global warming aka climate change (and whatever moniker it’s given in the next decade) “would fit the bill”. 
Have fun extricating your heads from your posteriors.

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